Counselling Twickenham, Whitton I work with:
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Mindfulness is about being present in the moment - developing a sense of your embodied experience and focussing on the flow of physical sensations and feelings, rather than dwelling on past or anticipating the future (M. Williams, 2011). As a psychotherapist in Whitton, EnduringMind, I help clients to cultivate a state of relaxed concentration so they can step-back and reflect on life, regaining their self-awareness. Mindfulness is a simple way of being; available to all of us - a condition that is hard-wired into the human brain. Even as babies we practice it instinctively to make sense of our world - using our instincts and bodily sensations to guide us.
Recent advances in neuropsychology have proved this, but it is a tradition that goes back thousands of years: such as meditation, prayer or yoga. But mindfulness does not belong to religion. You may have noticed this with a loved one as you shared an intimate moment; or at one with yourself in the natural world; or even as you sat in silent reflection. Only to become aware that all aspects of your being coalesced into one unified experience of being. Life can become overwhelmng at times and you may have asked yourself - what is happening to me now?
In the midst of a crisis you may not have come up with a satisfactory answer – either because you were easily distracted or caught up in events. Not having ample space and time to reflect on our lives, comes at a great cost in the modern world. It means we often ignore the build-up of intense emotions or physical sensations associated with stress until it's too late. By then we feel overwhelmed, exhausted or suffer a breakdown. But rarely step off the treadmill to take care of our health and wellbeing. Often we don't have time to sit and relax, have a quiet conversation with a friend, or enjoy the restfulness of sleep. This might lead to an accumulation of stress, angry outbursts, emotional withdrawal or conflict with friends and family.
At Counselling Twickenham, EnduringMind, if a client wants to I can offer self-awareness exercises in counselling. You can use the mp3 recordings above to help you get started after reading this article. Mindfulness is a solution to life on the run. It's a way of being present with ourselves - by paying attention to the here-and-now (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Creating the conditions for a state of openness and emotional balance. Being mindful helps us develop an attitude of tolerance and self-acceptance. Replacing rigid patterns of thinking and behaving with a more flexible approach, adapting to situations as they arise. It means we stop grasping onto the illusion that we're in control, or things will remain permanent. And helps us to let go of our fears - fear of abandonment, uncertainty, discomfort, emotional pain or a world without possessions. Rather than anticipate the worst, we can train our mind to let go of distressing memories from the past and stop projecting our fears into the future. However, it need not come at the expense of living in the real world with its fast pace, persistent demands and multi-tasking. You might think of it as a Middle Way. A move towards the centre ground – allowing us to live more balanced lives. So what is this elusive quality that could restore a sense of calm. It’s nothing new or mysterious. It’s as ordinary as water we drink, or the air we breathe. A way of acknowledging our instincts and being open to our senses.
At Counselling Twickenham, EnduringMind, if clients wish to I can help them improve their self-awareness and transform their lives using various techniques. It is not a panacea or mastered by experts. It is something quite ordinary which requires only effort to practice and develop in our everyday lives. Not something you need to fret about, but something easiy embraced in everyday life. Let me give you an example.
Observation: Step 1:
Close your eyes. And ask yourself this simple question...what is happening to me now? Did you find yourself for one single moment turn inward and experience a moment of stillness, listening to the stirrings of your body and mind…?
If yes, then you have already found a degree of mindfulness
If not, then experiment with the practice below
Mindfulness of Breathing: Step 2:
To begin with, relax. Hold a reasonably straight posture, whilst sitting with your back upright.
Start breathing normally. Settle into your own rhythm and breathe. As you inhale allow your diaphragm to fully extend, pushing into your belly and up again as you exhale. Try not to breathe too fast or slow; too deep or too shallow. Continue inhaling and exhaling, as you turn your attention inward to the sensation and sound of your breath. Stay with that awareness awhile as you inhale and exhale repeatedly. Do not invite any thoughts or dismiss them. Gently allow your thoughts to bubble up to the surface of your mind and disappear without following them. And if you find your mind wandering or distracted, turn your attention back to the sensation of your breath. Concentrate a little more, while remaining relaxed. Once you’ve settled into a rhythm, continue breathing normally. Notice the gap between the in-breath and out-breath. Then ask yourself with an open mind – what is happening to me now? Try to remain with your embodied experience and physical sensations, rather than your thoughts. This will keep you in the present moment: staying with your sensations as they rise and fall.
Repeat this every so often and notice without judgement or criticism, what happens. Notice your present state of being. Do not try to grasp it or hold onto it, just let it come and go. Try to understand that nothing is permanent; all things change. At first, this practice may feel a little confusing or you might find yourself getting tangled up with distractions. Don’t worry. In time, if you will begin to focus on your breathing, and eventually lose your wayward thoughts and replace them with a unified sense of being. Try not to expect any euphoria or enlightenment; just enjoy the gift of having a moment to yourself.
You see – it’s simple!
Body Scan: Step 3:
You may do each of these exercises separately or together. If you suffer significant pain from an illness or injury consult your doctor first. Begin the activity by using breathing to slow down your heart rate. Stand, sit or lie down with your back fully supported. Slowly, turn your attention away from the breath and focus inward on your bodily sensations. Develop a sense of openness and fluidity within; hold your balance between relaxation and focus. As you do so, begin scanning different sensations as they arise in the body. Scan your body for any pain or discomfort and gently shift your body or mind to accommodate this. Without forming any judgement notice the location of the pain. Develop a sense of curiosity. Observe any changes in its intensity and gently soothe away the pain by letting go. The pain should begin to disperse a little, although it may intensify at first. Be patient. All feelings change. You might also notice a tingling sensation on the skin, a change in atmospheric pressure, or the temperature generated externally. Turn your mind inward. Scan each part of the body; paying attention to each sensation. Start with the extremities and progressively observe each region of your body. Spend a few seconds on each area. Start by wiggling your toes. Slowly allow your awareness to drift to your feet and lower legs. Let your awareness drift further up your legs, hips, buttocks, pelvis, back. Then scan your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, upper back, neck, head, face, eyes, nose, mouth. You may want to follow my mp3 sound recordings above.
As you learn to practice at Counselling Whitton and Twickenham, allows you to be able to identify, tolerate and reduce distressing thoughts and emotions. It allows you to relieve the physical and psychological sensations of pain and anxiety. It helps to develop self-awareness, identify emotional conflicts and gain some sense of mastery over them. Rather than feeling ambushed by negative feelings you learn a new way of observing the world and regulating intense emotions. So what is this state of being mindful? Below are some definitions:
Observing an ongoing stream of internal and external stimuli as they arise (R. A. Baer, 2014).
Paying attention to the unfolding of experience moment-by-moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
In the practice of tolerance and self-acceptance, ones enemy is the best teacher (Dalai Lama, 2003).
Put simply, mindfulness is an awareness of the world in-and-around you. It gives you time to pause in the present moment and observe your thoughts and emotions without judging. To let go of distressing, painful memories from the past and dealing with the NOW before you look ahead to the future. It allows you to take stock of your experiences without prejudice, even when you have fearful thoughts of the future. In fact, we are never NOT in the present moment – we just lose track of it in our minds. Below are some mindfulness exercises you will find described and explained later on in other mindfulness pages: with an explanation of how anxiety is caused and can be overcome with mindfulness, as well as videos, downloads and mindfulness activities. Please click below or contact me for any details about Mindfulness counselling at EnduringMind.
Mindfulness Exercises - Presence of Mind
Mindfulness of Breathing
Meditation on Compassion & Empathy
Awareness of Discomfort
links and mp3 recordings free to download